Public intoxication is a crime that you can be penalized for, but only if there are certain elements present in your case. That’s good, because if you can prove that any element is missing from the case, you may be able to have the charges dismissed.
What many people don’t know is that public intoxication isn’t an actual charge in Minnesota. Minnesota Statute 340A.902 says that no person can receive a criminal charge for being drunk or drunk in public.
Yet, a law enforcement officer can charge you for being drunk in public under other crimes, including disorderly conduct.
If you’re charged with disorderly conduct for misbehaving while drunk in public, working with a Minnesota disorderly conduct lawyer can help reduce or even eliminate your charges.
What Exactly Is a Public Intoxication Charge in Minnesota?
340A.902 effectively eliminates the ability for a court to convict you of public intoxication. However, if someone is drunk in public and behaves disruptively, he or she might receive a disorderly conduct charge.
This crime, also called being “drunk and disorderly,” asserts that you’re visibly drunk or being influenced by drugs in a public place and you’re participating in one of the following behaviors:
- Being offensive, noisy or abusive
- Using offensive language
- Disturbing meetings
Being a public nuisance is also closely related to disorderly conduct. A public nuisance is someone who annoys, hurts, or endangers others. This definition also includes obstructing public highways and disobeying local legislation.
If you do any of these things while drunk, you could also receive a public nuisance charge.
Is Disorderly Conduct a Misdemeanor?
Normally this is a misdemeanor charge, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to have the penalties lowered or the case dismissed. After all, the penalties for a disorderly conduct misdemeanor conviction include jail time and thousands of dollars in fines.
Other Types of Charges Related to Drunkenness in Minnesota
An officer can arrest you, and you can be charged with public intoxication if you seem to be intoxicated or drunk and are in public at the time. But this is only true if you’re also caught committing one of the following crimes:
- DUI / DWI
- Property damage
If you’re drunk in public while underage, you could also receive an Underage Drinking charge. For example, a Minor in Possession (MIP) is an underage drinking charge in Minnesota.
Anyone under the age of 21 can receive a MIP for possessing, purchasing, or attempting to purchase alcohol. The only exception is when a parent or legal guardian is present, and the underage person is in their private dwelling.
Disorderly Conduct Conviction Penalties
Disorderly conduct, including being a public nuisance, is a misdemeanor in Minnesota. If convicted, you could receive up to 90 days in the local jail, a fine of up to $1,000, or both.
Fines and jail time increase if the disorderly conduct is targeted toward a vulnerable adult. However, this is only the case if the perpetrator of the disorderly conduct crime is that vulnerable adult’s caregiver. Then, a conviction results in up to one year in prison and/or a $3,000 fine.
Even if you don’t get jail time for one of these crimes, a court may order a probationary period. During probation, you may have to complete community service hours, see a counselor, or attend alcohol awareness courses.
Finally, misdemeanor convictions stay on your record forever unless you get your record sealed. Employers will then have access to your criminal record, and your conviction could impact your ability to get hired. Plus, having a prior misdemeanor can increase penalties for future criminal convictions.
A Minnesota defense attorney can help expunge your record if you have a prior conviction.
Disorderly Conduct Charge Defenses in Minnesota
You don’t want to suffer the consequences of disorderly conduct or public nuisance charge in Minnesota. What kind of defense could help you?
The exact defense a Minnesota criminal attorney uses will vary depending on the crime. For example, getting a DUI or DWI charge is a form of public intoxication. To get out of a conviction, you’ll want to show that you weren’t intoxicated or under the influence of drugs.
If you can’t do that, then show that the location wasn’t public property. Since there is no single definition of what constitutes public property, your attorney can help you argue that you weren’t on governmental land or in a public space. And a Minnesota court can’t convict you of disorderly conduct if you’re in the privacy of your own home.
The only exception here is if you commit assault or damage someone else’s property while drunk in the privacy of your own home. Even so, a disorderly conduct defense lawyer could still get you out of a conviction. This is especially true if the assault or property damage occurred as a result of self-defense.
Your attorney can also help you fight the case by showing that you weren’t intoxicated or acting as if you were. For instance, maybe you were talking loudly because you were rehearsing for a play in which you are to play someone who is intoxicated.
Minnesota’s statutes further make exceptions for people behaving disorderly who have neurological conditions, epilepsy, or are insane.
Free Speech Defenses
By now, you may be wondering: how can I receive a charge for being offensive or using offensive language while publicly intoxicated in Minnesota? Isn’t that practicing free speech?
According to the Minnesota Statutes, a court can only convict someone of disorderly conduct for offensive speech if the language arouses alarm or anger.
So, if you’re using offensive language while drunk in a public space and no one seems alarmed or angered, a Minnesota disorderly conduct attorney can get your conviction overturned.
Call a Minnesota Disorderly Conduct Lawyer
When you’re charged with disorderly conduct while publicly intoxicated, the onus is on you and your Minnesota criminal defense lawyer to prove otherwise.
There could be dozens of reasons for an officer to misinterpret your behaviors, and it’s your right to correct his or her misconception of your actions. Your attorney can help you try to turn around this situation, so you face fewer or no penalties.
Looking for a Minnesota disorderly conduct lawyer? Carlson & Jones has the experience and expertise you need to get out of a charge related to public intoxication. Call us today to schedule a free consultation and find out how we can help defend your case!
Originally posted on February 19, 2018 and updated on October 19 2021.